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United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent: Visit to the United States of America

30 January 2010

At the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has undertaken a country visit to the United States of America from 25 to 30 January 2010. The Working Group collected information on the situation of people of African descent in this country, including the challenges they face because of racial discrimination and the programs and other activities that exist to confront these challenges. The members of the Working Group met with Government authorities and representatives of civil society in New York and Washington.

The Working Group expresses its appreciation to the Government for both the invitation and the very helpful collaboration it received in preparing for, and undertaking, the country visit. It also greatly appreciates the comprehensive and informative meetings that were held with Government agencies and non-governmental organizations and the spirit of candour that characterized them.

The members of the Working Group were pleased to learn of the many programs and other initiatives that the Government implements to combat racial discrimination affecting people of African descent, including the work of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the various Civil Rights Offices that exist in Government Departments as well as the many other institutions that are working on the promotion of diversity.

The Working Group is concerned, however, with the absence of a human rights commission charged with the promotion of human rights and the implementation of human rights standards. Given the unique history of people of African descent in the United States, the Working Group is concerned by an insufficient recognition in the present day of the influence of the baggage of the past, which necessitates specific institutions and programs tailored to the situation of people of African descent.

The Working Group also noted the existence of a circle of poverty, inadequate education and limited employment opportunities affecting the lives of people of African descent on multiple levels, which is not being sufficiently addressed, in a holistic and coordinated manner, at the federal, state and local levels.

Although the Working Group recognizes the great advances that have been made in combating direct discrimination against people of African descent, it is concerned by the ongoing structural discrimination that cannot be effectively addressed with the existing mechanisms and legislation.

Although a series of recommendations will be included in its report on the country visit, the Working Group offers the following preliminary recommendations, designed to assist the Government in meeting the challenges that face people of African descent in the United States of America:

The Working Group recommends that the particular history and context of people of African descent be taken into account in developing relevant legislation and when designing specific and holistic programs and other remedies to address racial discrimination directed at this population group.

The Working Group recommends that the Government take action to empower people of African descent in political life, through measures that address problems of electoral disenfranchisement, homelessness, poverty and poor education.

The Working Group encourages the Government to establish a Human Rights Commission, as an independent body in accordance with the Paris Principles, which will monitor and assist the implementation by the Government of international standards at the state and federal levels. The Government should establish within this body a dependency that deals specifically with people of African descent.

The Working Group particularly calls upon the Government to ensure to children of African descent all of the rights contained within the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to have the child’s best interest as a primary consideration in all dealings with the State.